Bye bye Broadstairs (for the moment).

As promised in the last post here this one is going to be quite a number of days all rolled into one, not because I am getting lazy or rushing to the end of this particular trip, which it will be but because I slipped into somewhat of a routine which probably would not interest the reader. I do, however, urge you not to skip to the next page just yet. The one thing I did manage to do was to get to see some excellent gigs and was getting confident enough with my newish camera to record some footage. This post will contain links to my YouTube page where I tend to post all my videos and I hope you enjoy them. I shall also write briefly about the one or two other things that I did but that will be brief, I promise.

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An autumnal Viking Bay.

Saturday the 19th was a pretty bleak day, not in terms of the weather was still pleasantly bright if chilly but in terms of the Rugby World Cup where Ireland still had an interest but not much hope. Having failed to beat Japan in the group stage we were destined to face the mighty All Blacks (New Zealand) who were two time defending champions and my pre-tournament pick to win. I have no complaints about the Japan result as they simply outplayed us with superb discipline, fitness levels and adherence to a clever strategy that suited them very well. Of course, losing to them meant the Blacks as everyone knew and I didn’t hold out a lot of hope. Dave had very decently opened the pub early again for the minor undercard on the bill which was England vs. Australia. OK, Poms and Aussies, I am joking – honestly.

I had arrived at the pub bang on opening time as I knew there would be good crowd for the England game which there proved to be although I bagged a good seat with a clear view of one of the big screens. One of the images above demonstrates how early I got there.

Whilst I had picked NZ to win I also thought that England stood as good a chance as they had had since they won it all those years ago. I know that might sound contradictory but they went in with a superb squad and had demolished Ireland (then ranked #1 in the world) not long before. All it would take was for them to play as they were capable of and a bit of that most elusive sporting requirement, luck, and they were in with a shout. In the event they totally dismantled Australia 40 – 16 and looked nigh on unbeatable.
Somewhere in the middle of this Dave did his usual and produced tray upon tray of tasty bacon rolls to feed the masses.

I know there is no shortage of venues to watch sporting events in Broadstairs but I do like the George. Dave runs it brilliantly and there is usually a good friendly crowd for just about any sporting event. On many occasions I have seen three different sports being watched on the various screens simultaneously.

With the first game out of the way it was on to the main event and a few people left but not many so it was still a good atmosphere. I really do not wish to dwell on it but NZ did to us what England had done to the Aussies and we were turned over 46 – 14. I expected to lose but it was the manner of the defeat that rankled. We just did not turn up and you cannot do that against the All Blacks. Ah well, I certainly did not expect us to win it despite the world rankings which I have little faith in anyway. The images above tell the story of the day really.

Sunday 20th and it was back to the pub early for the other two rugby matches. In the first, Wales scraped a one point win over France and were lucky to do so  with French indiscipline gtelling again.  Sebastien Vahaamahina was sent off for a nasty elbowing offence which effectively ended his career early as he at least had the decency to retire early shortly thereafter.  As always, there were breakfast rolls for all before South Africa basically bullied a gallant Japan into a 26- 3 result. Japan had impressed me greatly and also others who actually know something about the game. Even allowing for home advantage they punched well above their weight and must be considered for inclusion in the Southern hemisphere main competition of Australia, NZ, RSA and Argentina but I cannot see the Old Boys network allowing it as they do not want the very lucrative pie sliced up five ways instead of four.

The three images I want to share with you here are nothing to do with the rugby but serve to illustrate various points.

The first is not to showcase the Victorian promenade shelters, attractive as they are, but to show you two of the ever-increasing street sleepers / beggars that seem to be in ever greater numbers every time I visit the town. The second shows the mess in Victoria Gardens after the mini hurricane during the Food Festival which I mentioned in another post. The third is included primarily because I rather like these attractive houses in Wrotham Road but also to show you what is happening in Thanet as these dwellings are relatively new and there are plenty more springing up. There was another new development in Alexandra Road under construction since my last visit.

Nothing until the Wednesday when it was Folk Club night again in the Tartar Frigate which I go to sometimes and am always made very welcome, probably because I know just bout everyone there. Here are a couple of images to give you an idea.

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This used to be a Post Office.

Only one image for Thursday the 24th October whilst coming back from my Beano’s “breakfast” at 1400 and it once again shows what is happening in smaller communities in UK. This building, until recently was the Post Office for the town but that function has now been devolved to retail premises although they do retain the rear of the premises as a sorting office. I think it is disgraceful.

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Folk week commemorative marker.

Not much on the Friday except that I finally got round to taking images of a couple of things I had been meaning to for ages as I knew I had only a few days left. The first is the rather wonderful sign commemorating 50 years of Folk Week in 2015, the Festival is nearly as old as me! The piece was made by Mark Howe of Broadstairs Metal Craft and I think it is very well done. Hopefully both it and the Festival will still be in place for the centenary although I doubt I shall be around to see it!

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Memorial plaque to Ted Heath.

The second is of a plaque on the side wall of the Sailing Club commemorating it’s most famous member, the former Prime Minister Sir Edward (Ted) Heath who I have mentioned before in these posts.

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Jez Hellard and the Djukella Orchestra in the Wrotham.

The final image is of Jez Hellard and the Djukella Orchestra who played in the Wrotham that night. These guys are regularly booked for Folk Week although I had never seen them. To be honest, I do not get to see too many acts as I am usually too busy making a noise myself. somewhere. Once again Jackie had booked well and they were yet another of the excellent acts I saw in the pub, I really cannot speak highly enough of either her or the Wrotham generally. As promised at the start of this piece you can check out some clips of the band on my Youtube channel here, here, here and here.   Four videos, I am spoiling you, dear readers.  Of course the added bonus was that I only had to wander upstairs to my bed again but not too late as I had an early start on the Saturday.

Saturday was rugby day again and so I was up with the lark and off to the George once again. I knew I needed to be early as it was the first semi-final with England taking on New Zealand so one of my hunches about the eventual winner was going to come a cropper. As you might imagine, the place was packed to the rafters although again I had a good seat (and the obligatory decent breakfast offerings from Dave) to watch an excellent game. England turned over the much-fancied All Blacks 19 – 7 and played extremely well. I knew they were good but I did not expect them to win as impressively as they did nor restrict the Antipodean side to a mere seven points. Needless to say it developed into a bit of a party helped along the way by the usual football offerings on TV. I had a reasonably quiet evening and headed to bed early as I knew the next day was to be another early rugby start.

Up on Sunday and straight to a much quieter George Inn for Wales vs. South Africa in what promised to be a good game and certainly lived up to the billing. There were a few Welsh supporters in but it was by no means busy. I knew it had been a bit lively in there on the previous night so perhaps there were a few delicate heads and stomachs being nursed at home. Another 0900 kick off may just have been a step too far despite the extra hour in bed afforded by the change from BST to GMT. As I expected, RSA depended on the sheer physicality of their monstrous pack and edged a narrow 19 – 16 victory to set up a final against England the next Saturday. I was looking forward to that although I knew I was going to be watching it many many miles from the George.

I was leaving on the Monday which, even allowing for my hospital sojourn, is earlier than I normally go. I usually hang around until a day or two before Remembrance Sunday as I like to attend the Act of Remembrance in central London but before that I had another little jaunt to undertake.

You may remember my mate Paul from these posts, he is the banjo player I had played Folk Week with. He and his lovely wife Sue live in Newcastle in the Northeast of England and for years I had been promising to go up and visit him and “play a few tunes” as we refer to it. Whilst I had been in Broadstairs he had been messaging me from his hotel in Crete asking me to come up in early November. I couldn’t help but think how much things have changed in my lifetime. I remember a time when computers took up a warehouse and a mobile (cell) ‘phone was science fiction and yet he was sending me instant messages from over two thousand miles away arranging gigs a mere 350 miles away. There was a gig on the Tuesday night so my plan was to get an evening train to London on the Monday after saying my farewells and then a quick turnaround and on another train North on Tuesday lunchtime but all that is for future posts.

For now I still had one last treat in store, the Sunday early evening gig in the Wrotham which I was looking forward to as it was Snake Oil Trading Company which includes my mates Griff and Brian who I have mentioned often here before. They are the two sound engineers / multi-instrumentalists that seem to rig just about every gig in Thanet that my other mate Chris doesn’t put together. I reckon Broadstairs must have more soundmen per capita than anywhere else in the UK and they can even make me sound marginally less awful than I usually do! The other two members of the group are Ray on guitar and vocals and Jacks on drums / percussion and vocals. They perform what is known these days as Americana and they do it very well as I hope the clip shows.

During the interval my mate Nigel Feist  and Ben Mills  got up and did a couple of numbers which was a commendable effort as they were both still hanging out rather following Nigel’s birthday party the night before.  Nigel is an excellent blues harp player whom I have known for years and Ben is quite a celebrity around Thanet following his getting into the finals of a national TV talent show a few years ago.  In a perhaps unusual choice of number they did a rather bluesy version of “Ode to Billie Jo” by Bobbie Gentry which I rather liked and which you can see here.

It was great fun, well attended and I thoroughly enjoyed it, especially heckling the band (in a friendly manner obviously). Another quiet evening in the pub with a few great friends completed the day before retiring to my comfy room for the last time this trip. I felt quite sad about that.

Monday morning and a beginning and an end. The beginning of a new week which was hopefully going to end miles away and the end of another Broadstairs trip which had proved to be memorable for all sorts of reasons.

Just a few random images of the day here, firstly the William Hill bookmakers which had closed down when I was here and mirrors the fate of it’s sister shop not three hundred yards from my home. I was told that the rise of online gambling and new regulations on gaming machines where people could lose ludicrous amounts of money in a very short period of time, were making them no longer viable for the operators. Apparently they had all opened up huge numbers of outlets a few years ago where betting on sports events was the least part of the business, all the money was coming from the machines. Now this is no longer possible they are just closing them all down again. It is no loss to me as I find gambling the height of stupidity, I do not even buy lottery ticket.

The second image is of the pier, a view I must have literally hundreds of images of but. like the Royal Harbour in Ramsgate, I can never get enough and it serves to show that even at the end of October there were still people enjoying the Viking Bay beach. The final image is of my “last supper” in town, delivered to the pub as usual and delicious as usual. There had been a few farewells during the day and I still had one more lot to do so I headed off back to the Wrotham.

When I got back, the “choir” were in full flow. They are not a proper choir but rather a group of people who get together to sing, accompanied by two guitars, and with the emphasis very much on harmonies. They do stop and work these out so I do not know if the ultimate aim is to perform live or whether indeed they already have. It certainly seemed much more like a rehearsal / workshop than a singaround and it was rather an appropriate finish to my stay. I was half-tempted to break out the guitar which I had sitting beside me but I had a train to catch which I did in good time as the image below shows.

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On the move again.

It would be tempting to say I was thinking about things in general on the train and were I a cinematographer it would be great, interspersing “flashbacks” with my reflection in the window of a speeding train with lights flashing but it didn’t happen that way. Yes, there was the general deflation I always feel leaving Broadstairs but I spent my time reading my book and dozing on the mercifully empty train. The introspection had been taking place before I left and much more since, especially whilst reliving it all here.
It had been an even more eventful trip than usual on my annual pilgrimage to the Folk Week and there have been some pretty eventful times there in the past. It had reminded me of my own mortality and approaching official “old” status not that I was ever living in a state of ignorance (blissful or otherwise) of either and caused a fairly serious lifestyle change as a result. I am very pleased I “quit” smoking to the extent I did. Apart from anything else it is saving me a fortune in tandem with the new drinking regime which I am still not particularly fond of snd doubt I ever will be. What is it they say about never missing your water till the well runs dry?

I always knew I had a lot of friends in and around Broadstairs but this really drove the message home. The amount of support and concern I received both amazed and humbled me. Cliched as it is, the people involved are too numerous to mention but they know who they are and some of them actually read this nonsense so my heartfelt thanks to them all.

I got to see the National Health Service “up close and personal” and I have to say that for all the much publicised failures that the media revel in, my experience was 100% positive. Again, I believe one or two of the people in the QEQM read this and so more heartfelt thanks are in order. You are lifesavers, literally, and you should be immensely proud of what you do. Heaven knows, you can’t be in it for the money!

As for the Festival itself, yes, there were a few problems this year, many of them climatic but there is nothing you can do about that, it is just the British “summer”. The other issues will undoubtedly resolve themselves to a greater or lesser degree but the enthusiasm for Folk Week seems to be undiminished by those present. The standard of musicianship (not to mention dancing, poetry, juggling and a host of other artistic activities) seems to be as high as ever and yet further thanks to everyone who put up with me making a noise alongside them both during the event itself and subsequently.
I could really go on and on here but I’ll rein it in as it will become terminally boring for the reader but back when I started this blog I did say that I was going to be completely honest in it and that is what you are getting here, folks.

Now that I have got my thoughts on life, the Universe and everything (to quote the late Douglas Adams) out of the way you’ll be glad to know there is more travel in the next post which is presumably why you dropped in here in the first place so stay tuned and spread the word.

I finally get to play the Pav.

Sunday the 13th was another fairly dreary day in terms of weather but I was quite excited as I was to play in the Pavilion, locally known as the Pav which has a wonderful position overlooking the harbour and Viking Bay. It is a big place, used for functions a lot and is one of the hubs for Folk Week. It is probably best known for the late night ceilidhs, many of which I have attended and some of which I even remember! Whilst I remember a couple of impromptu jams in the garden during Folk Week I had never got to play onstage there as that is reserved for proper musicians but this was the day I was going to get my chance.

I had been asked by my friend Ginny some time before if I would play in a scratch band at a charity fundraiser for the local Pilgrims Hospice in memory of a guy called Chris Rozee. Of course I would. The band was to be named “Ginny’s Motley Crew” and indeed it was, mostly refugees from the Folk Club held every Wednesday at the nearby Tartar Frigate. I should mention that both the Pavilion and the Frigate are Thorley Taverns, just two of the six drinking establishments Frank Thorley owns in Broadstairs alone with dozens more elsewhere. I had popped into the George (another Thorley Tavern) for a while and then made my way the 100 or so yards down the hill to the Pav, where the band were just setting up, great timing.

Ginny had given me a potential setlist and I knew most of the songs on it. The tunes were no problem as the band included my friends Michaela on the accordian and Graham on fiddle, both of whom are excellent musicians and whom I have played with before. All that needs to happen is Michaela shouts key changes at me as we go and I merely jam along behind what they are doing. Simple. It was all a complete busk and I was just harmonising on a few choruses but Ginny had asked me previously if I could take the vocal on a song called Fiddler’s Green. That was easy enough as it was one of the first folk songs I ever learnt and I have been signing it for over 40 years now which is a bit scary. It seemed to go well enough and the good people assembled there were kind enough to applaud and at least they didn’t throw rotten fruit!

When I had first been told about the gig I was a little apprehensive, not about the playing but about filling the hall as it is a fairly large space and there is nothing worse for performers or audiences than trying to create an atmosphere in a half empty barn of a venue. I need not have worried as it was certainly not full but there was enough of a crowd to make for a good gig. The charity had a stall set up with a raffle etc. and I have not heard the final figures but I hope they raised a few £££.

Sadly, I didn’t have time to lumber anyone with my camera so I have no images of this momentous event (well, momentous for me anyway) but I’ll see if anyone else has and post them if I get any.

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Fat Tuesday at the Pavilion, Broadstairs.

There had been a couple of bands on before us and when we had cleared down Michaela did not have to move far as she was part of the last act, a band called Fat Tuesday and one of two bands she is in. They play mostly cajun music and I do rather like them. They had a guest artist who has one of the best stage names I have ever heard. He is a trombone player (yes, a trombone in a cajun band, strange I know) and his name is Marty so he goes out under the name of Marty Boneidol which I think is pretty clever. He is in Michaela’s other band which is called Beggars Belief who are also very good. They describe themselves as a reggae roots fusion band if you can believe that. Honestly, there is no style that lady cannot play. Incidentally, that is Ginny you can just about see playing washboard behind the speaker stand and the significance of the “instrument” is that the late Chris, whose memorial it was, often used to guest on it with the band.
It has taken me over 30 years but I can now put my hand on my heart and say I have played the Pav. I can finally hold my head up amongst Tim and Krista and Chris and all my other mates who have been on this very stage.

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Band with no name in the Wrotham.

After making my farewells I headed back to the Wrotham as the day was not over by a long shot. There was a band playing the 1600 – 1800 slot and I watched their set which was very good but, for the life of me, I cannot remember what they were called even though I had a chat with a couple of them afterwards. Sorry lads. OK. so that was played one, watched two and still more to come.

Sunday evening is normally quiet there and Jackie will often close the bar a bit early as she is there on her own but once a month there is a gig called the Woodshed run by the excellent Bob Kenward. He is the guy in the images with the red T shirt playing the guitar. Bob is yet another mate who I have known for years and is an excellent folk musician who has run the Woodshed for many years. During Folk Week it runs every afternoon between the lunchtime and evening acts and is immensely popular. The only difference between this gig and a regular Folk Club is that every month there is a theme which on this occasion was “time”. The next month it was to be “parts of the body” although the themes are fairly loosely interpreted and it is a nice relaxed atmosphere as Bob is very good at making even inexperienced performers feel relaxed, he is a charming man.

I was asked if I fancied doing a bit but I didn’t bother and just sat at the bar, sipping my “ciderwater” and enjoying the music. If you look closely at the image above, you may just recognise the hairstyle and instrument of the lady with her back to the camera. Yes, it is the lovely Michaela. Not content with having played in two bands in the afternoon she was back for more here. She really is a glutton for punishment!

When everyone had disappeared after the Woodshed, Jackie and I were sitting having a quiet drink and chatting about this and that but mostly the music scene around Thanet, specifically Broadstairs, which never ceases to amaze me. There is a local listings publication called W3 and every edition is completely full of gigs not to mention quiz nights, karaoke and just about everything else.

Apart from the music, there are a number of art galleries in the area, several decent theatres and one of the quirkiest little cinemas you will ever see. It is called the Palace and is in between the George and the Pavilion as mentioned above. That is another great thing about Broadstairs, none of the places I have mentioned in this post is more than ten minutes easy walk from any other. I know I go on about it a lot but the town really is an almost perfect spot if you are a bit bohemian, it certainly suits me down to the ground.

In the next instalment, I go for a walk which does not sound very exciting but it is quite a specific walk so stay tuned and spread the word.

Broadstairs Ball Fest (rugby balls, that is).

Sunday 22nd September and I was up very early for the second morning in a row but this time by design rather than accident. It was one of the few occasions in a very long time I had set my alarm for anything but this was important stuff as I mentioned at the end of my last post. You may know that I am following the Rugby World Cup in Japan and Ireland were playing Scotland to open their campaign with kickoff at 0845 due to the time difference. It is an unholy hour for a rugby match but not as bad as it might be as some of the games start at 0545 but thankfully not too many.

The Ireland game was immediately followed by England vs. Tonga at a more respectable 1115 so it was going to be a busy day one way and another. I had roused myself and got ready so early that I had time for a wander along the front and my obligatory couple of images which I have included at the top of the page just to kick off and give the page a half-decent look.  (Kick off, rugby, get it?  I don’t just throw this stuff together you know.  OK, I lied, I do just throw this stuff together).

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What has my life become?

Under the old regime I would have been straight into the cider but times have changed radically and it was coffee first. I am drinking so much coffee now it is unreal. I suppose they will tell me now that coffee is no good for me either! Dave made me up a large one in the rather cute Winnie the Pooh mug and quickly followed that with a tasty sausage roll just to keep the wolf from the door. The day started well with Ireland completely dismantling a Scottish side who were very disappointing. I cannot see them doing anything in this competition.

Sausage roll, George Inn, Broadstairs.
Rugby breakfast Mk. I.

It is pretty well worked out that there is only a short gap between games, allowing the experts in the studio to have a few words of a roundup and then change over to the next lot and so it was almost immediately on to England vs. Tonga at 1115. The pub had filled up well for this game because a) it was England and b) it was a much more civilised hour and once again Dave produced trays laden with sausage rolls which were devoured in short order. By this time I was on to “ciderwater” and if you do not know what this is please check back on my previous posts. It is interesting to compare and contrast Breakfasts Mk. I and II which were timed at 0853 and 1124 respectively.

Sausage roll, George Inn, Broadstairs.
Compare and contrast. Rugby Breakfast Mk. II. Note the marked improvement.

Unsurprisingly, England ran out easy winners by 35 to 3 and they really are looking good this time around after a rather ignominious pool stage exit in their home tournament in 2015 after being beaten by Wales and Australia. I know the English sporting press are notorious for over-hyping any home side in any competition but I honestly think that the team coached by Eddie Jones has as good a chance this time round as at any time since they won it in 2003. Their back row particularly is explosive and they appear strong in every department with a strong bench to cope with injury and allow for rotation. this will be an interesting competition.

Enough of the rugby. If you are a fan, you will already know all this by the time I publish the post and if you are not then you do not want to know it! As for a travel blog entry I am afraid there is little more to add today as it was just another day spent in the pub trying desperately not to drink too much. It is certainly not the way I would wish to live but it has been forced on me and I shall have to make the best of it.

Wrotham Arms, Broadstairs.
Home sweet home away from home.

Back home to the Wrotham, which was feeling more and more like home with each passing day, a quick snack and a couple of chapters of my book and then head down for another peaceful night’s sleep.

Tomorrow, I go back to Margate and make an interesting discovery plus I get to the bottom of the “Mystery of the Beano Cafe” which you will know about if you have read my previous posts so stay tuned and spread the word.

Gluttony in the George.

Viking Bay, Broadstairs.
My attempt at being arty.

I do not know if you have reached this page through following my exploits chronologically / sequentially or if you just landed here by reason of something very bad you did in a previous life! If it is the former you will know that I had been up eating snacks at 0430 on this morning and if it is the latter you will not have known this but you do now! Despite all this nocturnal noshing I still managed to awake at some ridiculously early hour and I knew I would not get back to sleep so it was up and shower and out to face a pretty decent if chilly autumnal morning.

You may know that I am following the Rugby World Cup when I can. Dave the manager opens the George pub early (his normal time is 1100) if there is a match of particular interest on but I could not for the life of me remember if he was opening before time on that particular day so I took a bit of a wander along the front and had a try at taking an “arty” type shot or two of the sun reflecting off the water. I’m not sure if this is arty or just a mess but I quite like it. The rather safer options of the pier and Viking Bay and the information board at least turned out vaguely competent

I eventually ambled up to the pub in time for the 1045 kick off New Zealand vs. South Africa fixture. If you don’t follow rugby, these are two big hitters either of whom could win the competition and it was always going to be a bruising affair. The NZ All Blacks are my tip for the Cup as they are just so consistently good. The game was as tough as it had looked on paper and NZ ran out eventual winners 23 – 13. Although it will dent their confidence a bit this is not a major setback for the Springboks (South Africa) as both teams should progress from the group stage to the quarter finals.

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Breakfast is served.

If it is an early kick off, Dave knocks up bacon or bacon and sausage rolls (free, gratis and for nothing) which he dishes up to all and sundry and much appreciated they are. He was not doing that on this day but he seems to have taken it upon himself to feed me up following my recent illness. In truth, I am a bit thin at present. To this end produced a huge bowl of chilli con carne which was left over from the quiz night on the Thursday although he had spiced it up just a little as he knows I like a bit of a kick to my food but it was still not terribly hot. What it was, though, was completely gorgeous as anything in the stew / casserole / curry etc. line is when left overnight and re-heated. I know that proper recipes for certain French dishes actually call for them to be left overnight to let the flavours “get to know each other” as I like to put it.

My dear friend Poetry the barmaid was in the pub although not in a working capacity and she had been partying all night. I remember the days I was her age and could do it as well. As it happens, I reckon I probably still could if the Doctors would let me. Well, for one night anyway. There was no way I could finish all that Dave had given me although I had a good go at it and Poetry asked could she finish it. I wish she had asked me earlier as we could have got another plate and shared it while it was still hot. She took one spoonful of it and what happened next was spectacular. I wish I had had the presence of mind to film it as it was comical. As I said , it was not really hot at all but she reacted as if it was a Phall curry with extra naga chillies on the side. She was fanning her mouth, gasping, calling for water and all sorts of antics, it really was hysterical. When she had eventually calmed down sh told me that she cannot eat spicy food at all. I would love to see her face off a proper Thai jungle curry some time, that would be worth watching.
After the rugby I had a bit of a catch up on this blog and about half three in the afternoon I was hungry again despite the huge amount of chilli I had consumed not five hours previously. Back across the road to the Seafarer which I have mentioned previously and a battered sausage and chips was soon enough delivered to my table in the pub, I love this system!

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A late lunch is then served.

More online activity and a couple of pints of my new tipple followed so I suppose I should tell you about that. I was in the Wrotham one evening and lamenting the fact that I had been forced to cut down on my consumption so radically to Mira the barmaid. I have known Mira for a long time and her husband is a musician in a couple of prog rock bands so we all get along very well. Mira asked me if if I fancied a “ciderwater”. A what? Mira is a cider drinker herself and she told me that she sometimes drinks it when she is working. It is effectively a cider shandy but made half and half with soda water instead of lemonade, hence the name. It sounded disgusting and I told her so but Mira has a habit of talking me into doing things I don’t want to do which hitherto had normally meant me having another pint of real cider and so I had one.

What can I tell you about “ciderwater” other than that I was right? It did taste disgusting although I am still drinking it and actually getting used to it a bit now. Certainly it is not a patch on the proper stuff but you can still taste a little something. I just could not spend a whole evening drinking soda water and lime or orange juice or whatever. Added to that it looks like a pint, albeit somewhat anaemic so I do not have the psychological thing of everybody knowing I am not drinking. I know it is not a problem but everybody round here knows my backstory and it would just take too long to keep explaining it. I must admit I still feel a bit embarrassed asking barstaff for it but they do not bat an eyelid. Changed times from when I was a young man when even driving was not deemed an excuse for not drinking, ridiculous as that is.

Of course there is the financial aspect of drinking and I reckon that with my new ciderwater regime coupled with the vaping instead of lining the Government’s pockets with their unjustifiable tobacco taxes I must be saving a fortune. Ordinarily I would put a windfall like this towards another overseas trip but obviously that is not currently an option. I’ll let you know what happens.

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An early evening snack is served.

Come about half past eight in the evening and that appetite of mine was rearing it’s not so ugly head again. Seafarer time again for a “snack” of two fishcakes, just to keep me going you understand. Being a Saturday night, it was a little later to bed that night although I still managed yet another few late night munchies before I got my head down.

There is important rugby in the next post (yes, more important than NZ vs. RSA) so stay tuned and spread the word.

Back “home” to the Wrotham Arms.

Hello again folks and thanks for your forebearance in waiting for an update here which I know has been long overdue but the reasoning will be explained in the next post after this one. It is an interesting story to say the least. I intend to put three days together here for your ease of reading although I am actually composing and publishing this in late September and backdating as always.

Bedroom, Spencer Court Hotel, Ramsgate.
Goodbye to one hotel bed………..

Saturday, 17th August 2019.

The Saturday after Folk Week I was up fairly early as I knew I had to check out of my hotel pretty early and then get all my gear over to Broadstairs to my new abode in the Wrotham Arms. I like to travel light but the guitar case and the weight of the laptop with it’s various accessories in my daypack makes for a fairly cumbersome load. I was feeling OK as I decided to walk into Ramsgate and get the bus over rather than call a cab which would not have been expensive. I knew I could not “check in” at the Wrotham until 1600 as the pub does not open at lunchtime and there would have been nobody there so it was an obvious choice to head back to the George for a quiet couple of pints which is what I did.

In years past this day was known as Survivors Saturday where all the local site crew would come to the Neptunes Hall pub after having struck all the fencing etc. from the various sites ready for collection by the hire company. The sites take three days hard graft to set up and one frantic Saturday morning to take apart. I know as I have done both things before and the speed of the Saturday demolition is undoubtedly fuelled by the thought of the free beer the organisers put on in the Neps. As well as the crew, some of the organisers, local musicians, local volunteers from the Workforce and the odd (in every sense of the word) itinerant visiting muso like myself would all attend and there would be a bit of an informal debrief on the week just passed. Folk music was absolutely banned and Ken the landlord took great delight in putting pop music on the pub sound system with never so much as a “hey nonny no” or a finger in the ear! I love folk music but there is a limit and It did make for a pleasant change.

Broadstairs Folk Week sign, George Inn.
I can almost guarantee it!

Sadly, in recent years, the tradition of Survivors fell into decline somewhat and it was finally killed off when Ken and Jill retired in 2018 and the premises were refurbished, re-opening in November of that year. As part of the new regime, the Neptunes does not now open at lunchtime so that was that. I sat in the George looking across the road somewhat wistfully at the closed and darkened pub opposite and thinking of how things had changed over the years I had been there. In that vein I took an image of a sign that Dave had put up in the George earlier that week which you can see above. This was prompted by some wild rumours that had been circulating that it was going to be the last Folk Week ever.

I think I should put things into some sort of perspective here regarding Broadstairs Folk Week and I should say that I have a reasonable handle on what is going on. I know a lot of people and I hear things, confidences I am obviously not going to break here but shall speak in general terms and the first of which is so obvious it is ridiculous. The rumour of the demise of the Festival was apparently based on the fact that it had gone bankrupt but just think logically about this. I know the Festival accountant and the final accounts are not put together until some time later as there are still outstanding matters to be settled and so declaring the event bankrupt whist it is still in progress (and hopefully generating money in the form of collections etc.) is very premature.

Certainly it is no secret that Folk Week had to downsize a bit this year due to less corporate sponsorship and several other factors. This was the first year that I can remember when the main focus of the Festival was not a huge marquee along with attendant beer tent in Pierremont Park as they just could not afford it this year. The beer tent, which is run by my great friend Jenny, was relocated to the Craft Fair area adjacent to the Bandstand but the seating was totally outside and the weather really was not suitable for al fresco drinking for most of the week as I have mentioned previously. There are numerous other factors in play which I shall not bore the reader with but I cannot see this superb event folding just yet. I know it came close some years ago but everyone rallied round, gave of their time and talents for nothing and we survived somehow. I am sure we can do it again, at least I hope we can.

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Remember this, it is important.

During the afternoon I popped across the road to get a cheeseburger as I had not eaten for a day or two and knew I really should. I had taken a large bite out of it before remembering my camera and blog as you can see and normally I would not publish such an image but this burger is to prove important so I am glad I had this on file. The big bite was about the best I managed as I forced myself to eat as much as I could but still only managed about half of it, I really was in no mood for eating.

Harringtons ironmongers, Broadstairs.
I didn’t dare ask for four candles.

On my way up to the Wrotham to dump my kit I passed Harrington’s Store and could not resist popping my head in to ask if I could take a photo which the guy was more than happy for me to do. Harringtons is quite simply a timeslip, it is a general store and stocks anything you could possibly want and quite a lot of things you may never want. Again, I shall revert to an old review from my Virtual Tourist writings to explain.

“I don’t know if readers will have seen the absolutely classic comedy sketch by the British comedy duo, the Two Ronnies (Barker and Corbett). It has been voted best sketch in the history of British comedy. If you haven’t seen it, I have posted a link here.

There is a bit of Broadstairs folklore associated with it. The shop pictured is the simply wonderful Harringtons which is worth a visit in itself, it is an absolute cornucopia. It is situated at 1 York Street. I visited recently to buy a French bean cutter (long story, don’t ask) and was amazed at what was available, I kid you not, they have everything from a single screw to sets of saucepans to builders supplies and just about everything else.

Anyway, I know that some years ago, Ronnie Corbett had a holiday home just across the road (behind the Charles Dickens pub if you are interested) and was in the place. He was so enthralled that Ronnie Barker subsequently wrote the iconic skit based on this place. So there you have it. Fork handles”.

In the way of these things I had my bubble partially burst a couple of years later as I was staying in digs in Broadstairs during Folk Week and had borrowed an autobiography of Ronnie Corbett from my landlady where he states that the original idea came from a shop in Hayes in Middlesex although Harrington’s vast range did indeed influence the final script. Honestly, even if you don’t buy anything just go in for a look, they are well used to it.

As for the bean cutter mentioned, it went straight in the bin when I nearly removed a finger with it, it was bloody (literally as well as figuratively) dangerous.

I made it in good order to the Wrotham, spoke to Jackie and was billeted in Room Six, which is the best room apart from the fancy en-suite family room. As you can see from the images it is lovely and cosy and I do rather like it. Over the years I think I have stayed in every room there. It faces the road but it is not a problem as it is as quiet as the grave after the early evening. Like most of the rooms it is not en-suite but that is no problem as the communal bathroom is only a few steps along the corridor. It is kept spotless and the shower is piping hot with a good pressure which is all I could ask for really.

I didn’t feel much like heading back into town that night and so settled for a quiet time in the bar chatting to Jackie. It was pretty quiet and so we had a good chance to catch up on things. I was still taking it easy and did not drink a lot. By about half midnight I bid goodnight and headed towards my bed. OK, I know this is technically the 18th but bear with me. I walked to the bottom of the stairs which is literally no more than 30 feet from where I was sitting and doubled over with the most excruciating pain in my stomach, it was absolutely agonising. I half crawled and half staggered to bed, kicked off my shoes and curled up in a foetal position fully clothed and lay there all night in far too much pain to sleep. I must have dozed off for a little while but not long and woke in the same pain shortly after.

Sunday 18th August, 2019.

This was just a day of unmitigated discomfort where the only position I could lie in that did not make me physically cry out was lying in the same foetal position on my left side (for some reason it was no good on my right) and practice shallow breathing as inhaling or exhaling too deeply sent a stabbing pain through my abdomen again. The interesting thing and the sole reason I did not try to get help, if indeed I could have got out of the bed, was that I had had exactly the same symptoms some years before whilst on a canal boat trip with friends which is documented elsewhere on this  site. In that case the worst of it passed within about 24 hours and when I consulted a pharmacist she diagnosed trapped wind and prescribed something for that. In light of what was to transpire, I suspect this was a very flawed diagnosis!

Another full day and night of extreme discomfort trying to catnap where possible but being awoken by the pain after the merest of 40 winks every time.

Monday, 19th August, 2019.

I woke after one of my brief and fitful dozes on the Monday morning and felt much better. Not anything like 100% but not nearly as bad and fit enough to go out. I didn’t feel like eating but I went to the George in the afternoon to watch the Football later on. Again, I was very circumspect in my drinking and spent the afternoon catching up on my blogging here. At about 1900 I started to feel rough very quickly and within half an hour I knew there was no way I could walk back to my digs even though it is only a fifteen minute slow amble to get there. I had to get the barmaid to get me a cab and I am sure the driver must have thought me the laziest man in Thanet. I did not even feel well enough to explain. Something was definitely going to have to be done.

What was done is fully explained at some considerable length in the next post so stay tuned and spread the word.

Final Friday fling at Folk Week.

Friday 16th August arrived and it was already the last day of Folk Week which had simply flown by due to my delayed start. It also occurred to me very quickly that it was my late Mother’s birthday, may she rest in peace, which always happens either during or just after Folk Week depending on how the calendar falls. This year was a bit special, however, as it would have been her 90th birthday.

Spencer Square, Ramsgate.
View from my room.

Sadly, we lost her to the evil that is cancer ten years ago although it certainly does not seem like it.

Certainly I owe my Father a huge amount, notably my very defined sense of right, wrong and fair play but it was my Mother that instilled in me my great love of reading which I suspect influenced so much else in my life. She was not a huge traveller herself with a trip to Vancouver Island in Canada accompanying my Father’s Male Voice Choir her sole foray outside Europe but one of her many jobs was as a librarian and the more she encouraged me the more I read about “exotic” foreign places and the more I wanted to visit them. As I approach my 60th birthday (yes, I know, and there is nobody more surprised than me at how it crept up) and this situation still exists.

The tagline of this website is “Travelling while I still can” and that is very much the case. I have all sorts of ideas half formed although many have had to be put on the back burner for a while for reasons that will become apparent if you read on a few more entries in this series.

Thanet Loop bus sign.
This is the way I get around Thanet.

My usual “Thanet Loop” bus, which is an excellent service, whisked me quickly to Broadstairs, ordered a pint of breakfast and set up with Paul. for the last playaround of the week in the George Inn. For me it had only been four but it really did seem to go quickly. If the Tuesday had been a day of greetings then the Friday was very much a day of farewells. There are events until the early hours of Saturday morning and the campsite is open on the Friday night, many people will tend to drift off on Friday afternoon especially if they have a fair distance to go or, as in the case of several friends, are heading straight to Whitby Folk Week for another week of much of the same.

Magnet micropub, Broadstairs.
A very fine establishment, has been for years.

After our session, a few of us headed to the Magnet micropub for a drink and a bit of a play again I still was not feeling up to much but I had something I needed to sort out before I headed back over to Ramsgate for my last night in my digs there. The last sentence should give you a clue here. It would have been no problem to head back to London on the Saturday but I felt as if I had only just arrived in Thanet and I always stay for a little while after Folk Week to hang out with my numerous friends here and usually pick up a few gigs as well. When I say a little while, that is a fairly subjective term as I did not leave until 9th November in 2018! Come on, I love it here.

Any of the conventional accommodation options locally would have proved to be a bit of a strain on the budget especially as it was still in the relatively short high season and hoteliers rightly have to make a bit of money when they can. My “ace in the hole” here was my dear friend Jackie who is the landlady of the wonderful Wrotham Arms pub situated on the Ramsgate Road and far enough out of the centre to leave it quiet even on weekend nights when the local youth can create mayhem in the town but still central enough that leaves it less than a ten minute amble to Albion Street / High Street, the “main drag”. There are rooms above and I have stayed there many, many times over more years than I care to remember. Jackie has been there ten years now and before that the Wrotham was run by another dear friend Jenny and between them I doubt if there is a room of the nine available that I have not laid my head down on one occasion or another. It suits me down to the ground.

I spoke to the lovely Jackie and she told me that I was in luck. I knew she would have probably been full with musicians during the Festival but may have had a room free now. I was in luck, although Jackie wasn’t, as she had been let down at the last minute by a gang of visiting workers who make up much of her clientele. She told me to pitch up the next afternoon as she does not open lunchtime and I would be most welcome. She also quoted a most attractive “mates rate” for the room which was easily within my budget and meant that I could stay more or less as long as I wanted which suited nicely. As a bit of a quid pro quo I told her not to bother the cleaner (yes, before you ask, I know her as well!) as I would make my own bed and tidy up after myself. I don’t see the need for the poor woman to knock her pan out every day making my bed etc. and if I needed a new bin liner or towel or whatever, I’d dump them outside the door for replacement. I am fairly low maintenance and everyone is happy.

The bar was fairly quiet and so I had a couple of leisurely pints whilst catching up on the gossip but was still a fairly early return to Spencer Court and another early bed. Something still wasn’t right with me and I had no idea what it might be.

All will be explained soon so stay tuned and spread the word.

First full day at Folk Week.

Wednesday 14th August arrived with reasonable weather but look at the skies told me that it was very possibly not going to remain that way, which indeed proved to be the case later on.

The very first thing I needed to do was to get one of these microcard things for my new camera as it was about as much use as a lawnmower on a submarine without it and so time to check the internet for a suitable outlet and here I encountered another small problem with the guesthouse that could have been solved so easily with a little thought. Spencer Court boasts wifi and it may well have it but it is password protected and the only place the lengthy alphanumeric password is displayed is in the entrance hall which meant I was either going to have to run downstairs, write it down and then go back up to my room or else lug my laptop downstairs and input it there. Not a major problem certainly but it surely would not be beyond the wit of man to put a simple notice somewhere in every room. Again, it is just indicative of how they could improve the guesthouse considerably with just a little thought and without spending too much money. I took the lazy way out used my ‘phone instead.

CeX entertainment exchange Ramsgate.
My technological saviour – at a price!

I discovered a place called CeX which was right in the middle of town and not far from where I had to catch my bus to Broadstairs and wandered along to the shop where I spoke to a very helpful young lady who produced a 64GB SDXC cartridge which is apparently what I needed for £12 as it was second hand. I suppose the name of the business, which is presumably a contraction of Computer Exchange or something, should have given me a clue. It didn’t bother me in the slightest and a subsequent check slightly annoyed me as apparently I could have got the exact one I was sold for £9:99 online or in a Curry’s store that actually stocks them! Slightly irritating but at least I was good to go then.

A quick bus journey and I was back in the George Inn and setting up with Paul for the day’s session which turned out to be another good one with a decent crowd. The numbers of players generally tend to decrease as the week progresses when people who cannot stay the whole week drift off home but it was pretty consistent this year so in the very unlikely event that any of you may read this blog at some point, thank you all so much for coming as there is not much point in having a playaround if there is nobody there to play around!

We played away as happy as sandboys and it was getting darker and darker outside which convinced me that my earlier weather forecast was going to prove to be correct as it began to pour and when I say pour I mean it, it was positively monsoonal. Regrettably for an event that is so weather dependent Folk Week seems to suffer more than it’s fair share of appalling weather and I have been there, sometimes camping which was no fun, in conditions that would not have disgraced SE Asia in the wet season. I had been told that on the Sunday night / Monday morning there had been heavy rains and winds approaching hurricane strengths. There had been weather warnings issued by the Met Office and I have it on good authority that 33 tents were completely wiped out on the official campsite.

Amongst the victims under canvas was my mate Ted Handley from the excellent folk band Triality who are three brothers featuring a slightly unusual line-up of bass, accordian and trumpet, work that one out if you can. They are all great friends of mine and have been playing Broadstairs even longer than I have! Ted had one of these huge family marquee affairs that you need a map and compass to navigate round and he was camping with the whole family and enough kit to service a battalion but when the portable palace blew down he had to borrow his brother’s much more modest four man tent which put somewhat of a damper on things.

I’ll let the images speak for themselves regarding the weather and it was partly because of this that I didn’t fancy moving far after we had finished but the main reason I wanted to stay was that the afternoon act was the Baggy Boys who I love. If you have never experienced the Baggies, as they are known to their fanatical following, it is going to be extremely hard to describe what they are as they defy all conventional band knowledge.

The Baggies official website lists eight members although at the gig I am reporting on here they were apologising profusely that one of the band had had to return home early and there were still eight of them. I’ll swear I have seen them playing with about 14 members although it was at a previous Folk Week and in the evening of a hard day so I may conceivably have been seeing double by then. Looking at the band onstage it appears that about half the band play electro-acoustic guitars and all playing the same chords (no Eagles style duetting here), there is a decent lead guitarist and the rhythm section consists of electric bass and a cajon drum in place of the conventional kit. Various other percussive instruments are swapped around within the band and often the audience as well.

All this sounds as if it must be total chaos and it can indeed get quite hilariously disorganised onstage occasionally but the cleverly thought out repertoire of crowd-pleasing singalong numbers, hugely amusing banter between numbers and a very obvious delight in what they are doing makes this one of the most unfailingly good time pub bands I have ever seen, if you ever get a chance you should really go and check them out.

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Dave getting down with the Baggy Boys.

You might wonder how such an unusual outfit came into being and, frankly, so am I. Every time you ask one of them, or indeed anyone who has ever been associated with them in any capacity, you will get a different answer. Either they do it deliberately to build up a bit of mystique or they genuinely cannot remember themselves. Having met them many times I reckon either hypothesis is equally likely. The lads played to a hugely appreciative audience including Dave, the pub “guv’nor”, who you can see above strutting his stuff on the tambourine behind the bar. Like every other landlord in town he loves them and they are never short of bookings during Folk Week. Like myself, they usually manage to blag a couple more impromptu ones when they are here just for the love of the thing and they really are the Martini band – “Anytime, any place, anywhere”.

If the origins of the band itself are somewhat shrouded in mystery there is a little less controversy about how they came to be playing at Folk Week. I have it on good authority that a few of the guys were down for the Festival purely as punters and obviously had their instruments with them. Fancying a bit of a jam (I know that feeling well) they approached Chrissy, the landlady of the Prince Albert pub, and asked if they could play a few tunes. Of course they could as Chrissy is a great one for live music and was a great supporter of Folk Week and it was full steam ahead. She enjoyed them so much she booked them on the spot for the next year with the full band. As always, in the interest of fair reporting, I should say that Chrissy and her partner are great friends of mine, I still see them regularly although not in the P.A. which was taken over by an outfit called the Craft Union Pub Company and got rid of my friends. They replaced them with a manageress who quickly alienated all the regulars, most of whom left and have not returned, and turned the upstairs manager’s accommodation into a clubhouse for a local outlaw motorcycle club! Unbelievable but true. She is gone now and apparently there was a decent couple in there next whose daughter now runs it well but I will never be across the door of it again. As for the Baggies, they played the next year, ate the place and the rest, as they say, is history.

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Paul One Love doing his thing in the George Inn, Broadstairs.

By early evening the weather was not as bad as it had been but still not great and I didn’t fancy trekking all the way up to St. Peter’s where Paul was trying to get some sort of a session together. I still was not feeling great, nothing I could put my finger on but just a general malaise and I certainly was not drinking a whole lot so I decided to stay put in the George as the evening act was anther guy I know called Paul Messenger. Paul’s stage name Paul One Love, which probably gives you an idea as to what kind of stuff he plays. Paul is a troubadour i.e. one man and his guitar and plays to backing tracks from a seriously state of the art backing track machine. I’ll swear NASA could launch rockets with that piece of kit. His set is all covers with a heavy emphasis on reggae and ska, particularly UB40 and Bob Marley. He is very good and has a large local following wherever he plays. Rumour has it that he is also an excellent cook but I have never been invited to dinner yet!

Paul is one of the hardest working musicians I know and he will do a three or three and a half hour set with one very short break, he really does give value for money. I watched most of it until it was time to go and get the last bus home as taxis are like hen’s teeth during the Festival. A couple more chapters of my book and it was sleepy time again in that rather comfortable bed.

Still another couple of days of the Festival to go and a bit of an adventure thereafter so stay tuned and spread the word.